Damn Foreigners….

We’re inundated by foreigners here.

Not the ones from other countries (although they may as well be). These ones are moving here from out of state, usually blue ones.

How do I know?

Their strange ways and license plates. Mostly the license plates, and the cars (which I’ll get to in a bit).

When I moved here to DFW twenty years ago, one of the things I really enjoyed was the culture. People seemed much more laid back and genuine than those back where I came from in Washington DC. For the most part, those I met seemed to understand that it takes a while to figure things out, and I would soon enough.

A quote from Chesterton comes to mind:

“In the matter of reforming things, as distinct from deforming them, there is one plain and simple principle; a principle which will probably be called a paradox. There exists in such a case a certain institution or law; let us say, for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, “I don’t see the use of this; let us clear it away.” To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: “If you don’t see the use of it, I certainly won’t let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it.”

Newbies to Texas are the first to start expounding on this or that thing they think should be fixed here. In my early days I had a few of these conversations. The last of which I was told “Right there is I-35. Get on it, go north, and get the fuck out of here if you don’t like it”

Message received. Now that I’m a de-facto native, the last thing I want to hear is someone from a blue state, that he probably had a part in ruining, telling me what’s wrong with mine.

But there are more simple, more funny things they get caught up in by not really “Getting it”. First is the weather. It’s semi arid and hot here. For most of the year, it’s a lot like parts of California. 70-80 degrees, sunny, no humidity. However, around end of May or beginning of June, it’s like someone turned on the blast furnace. From that point until the end of September it’s usually 95 degrees or hotter with intense sun. My bald head will sunburn in the time it takes to mow the lawn.

So there’s nothing funnier than seeing a hipster in close fit jeans, black shirt, and a “Where’s Waldo” hat walking down the street in the hottest part of the day. That there is some special kind of stupid. You will dehydrate in no time at all and stroke out dressed like that. I pretty much exist in shorts and a t-shirt, with sandals or chacos, all summer. If I have to meet someone, I’ll throw on a polo. If it’s a more formal thing, I’ll put on some khakis. Look at the locals. It’s what they’re wearing for the most part.

One of the other tells is a black on black (black car, black interior) car, or truck. This last year I’ve seen more and more of them. I saw maybe a 1/2 dozen today. The big thing that I see lately are Muy Macho tactical looking trucks, all blacked out – body, wheels, interior.

This is a huge mistake. You know how I know? I did it.

I’d been here a while, and this car was the best deal I could get. A black Avalon, with black leather. It was super cool when I bought it in the fall. In the summer? Not so much. What’ll happen is when it gets super hot (more on that in a bit), the steering wheel will get so hot, you won’t be able to touch it. And, it won’t cool down until you are nearly where you need to go. All it takes is a few hours in a parking lot and you are doomed. As a contrast, my white truck with tan leather, while hot, cooled easily. Matter of fact, I could still drive it with the AC busted. It sucked, for sure, but it wasn’t unbearable. Car color makes a big difference here.

You see, this year and the last two or so have been “Mild”. Maybe only 100+ for a week or two, here and there. We are well due for a super hot summer and a drought. One year it was 105+ for something like 40 days straight. It stopped raining in May, and didn’t really start again until October. You’d drive past a lake, and what you saw was a field. When it gets that intense, that black paint on your car will denude. It’ll get dull, you’ll polish and wax to no avail. Soon, it’ll fade, peel, and break.

Not good for resale. And try to unload it during one of those hot years.

Same misery befalls your motorcycle saddle. Go meet friends for lunch on the bike. When you go to leave, it feels like someone stuck a hot iron on your scrotum. I put a towel over mine on those days. (my saddle, not my plums).

The last thing a transplant usually does wrong concerns real estate. What most do is take the money  from their old house, which if coming from California they probably made tons of dough on, and buy or build too much house here. Three things will kill you here – The electric bill for cooling 4000+ square feet, the ever moving taxes (they re-assess, and change rates yearly it seems), and the environment. Did I mention it’s Hot? The environment here is tough on houses. The ground has a lot of clay to it. Uncontrolled, it expands and contracts. Don’t water your foundation, and the soil will pull away, leaving a huge gap. First gully washer we get, the water fills the gap and erodes your foundation. The sun is so intense, it’ll ruin your siding in far less than 20 years.

There’s also the market itself. You still can buy or build a new house up north, which happens to be where most of the companies are moving. But the best neighborhoods, with the best schools are older – 1970s vintage. You better know what you are looking at when you buy there. I’ve had more than one conversation with an old-timer that would tell of the crappy construction back then. “See that house? That’s a Carter house. He went to jail, you know”

I didn’t know. And it took buying a beat up house like that to learn.

What many are doing now is buying into a neighborhood like mine, demolishing the old house, and building new. Fair enough. A lot of these old houses weren’t designed well, don’t have large bathrooms and kitchens, and weren’t well maintained. We have a few developers that do a great job building cool houses in place of these older ones that match the neighborhood.

And some that don’t. There are two down the street from me. First is a huge house. They wanted $1.2M for it when it was finished. They’ll never get it. Ever. It’s a McMansion surrounded by modest 1700-2500 sq.ft. houses at ~$180/sq ft. And that was at the peak. They’ve rented it for now. Down the street from it they are finishing a Frank-Lloyd-Wright-on-meth mess that looks like a firehouse. It doesn’t say ‘neighborhood’. It says ‘compound’. Lots of concrete, brick, and glass. It’s dark tin roof is pointed at the afternoon sun, as is it’s dark grey walls, and dark stained cedar siding. From 3PM to 6PM, when the sun is at it’s hottest they are going to roast and the house will age geometrically. There’s another – a normal house that they plopped on an ugly second floor. They want $900K.

There’s a reason the houses here were built one story. They were made before AC was ubiquitous. My house is shaded by pecan and willows, which keeps the house cool. It was 90 degrees this week. My house sits at 74, with the AC barely running. Yet the new houses and rebuilds are all two story with tall ceilings. They tower far above the trees here. The worst are those where they’ve added a second story and used vinyl siding. I doubt they’ll get a decade from the siding that faces the afternoon sun.

These new places, priced at $700K+ will sit. They’ll never make the money back, unless over the next 20 years every house is replaced with similar. I don’t see that happening, even in fat times, and the fat times are gone now.

How do I know?  I did it.

My first house here was 20 year old, two story, 3200 Sq Ft. Modest by local means, it was a super nice house, if not built all that well. The first year, my mortgage was identical to the house I had in VA. Three years later, it was $500/month more, thanks to taxes. And, the three AC units, which barely kept up in the hottest summers, were setting me back another $500 or so a month in electricity bills. We managed to sell it and get a smaller house, barely making the cash to do the move.

A move out of the fire to the frying pan. The second house, while cool, was built worse than the last. It seemed like we shoveled sand for 13 years keeping the place maintained. We were lucky in that we sold it during the relatively recent boom, making it very easy to downsize.

The new house is old, but built back when craftsmanship was a thing. It was completely remodeled before we bought it. It’s the kind of house and neighborhood we should’ve moved to when we came here 20 years ago.

So welcome to North Dallas. Listen and Learn.